Wondering where to go on your next holiday to the USA? From the bright lights of Las Vegas to the soaring majesty of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, there's so much to see in America that it would take more than a lifetime to explore it thoroughly. Endless highways cutting through barren desert landscapes; soaring peaks, green valleys huge complex urban jungles with towering skyscrapers... where to begin and what to see is your only problem.
Think of the USA and you can't help but think in icons: the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign, the Empire State Building... the list goes on. We've put together an image gallery of the 10 most iconic attractions to add to your travel list, with the help of Contiki Holidays. Remember to tell us what we've left out and we'll add it!
USA's most iconic attractions
Pictures: The USA's most iconic attractions
World renowned for its opulence and dazzling architecture, the Las Vegas Strip has become famous for its hedonism and around-the-clock party lifestyle. This intoxicating destination, nestled in the Nevada desert, is home to some of the world's most famous casinos, as well as impressive shows, water displays and fantastic nightlife. Well-loved by holiday groups looking for a good time, any trip to Las Vegas is bound to thrill and excite, hence its playful nickname of Sin City.
Manhattan Island is one of North America's most iconic destinations and the Statue of Liberty is its most famous attraction. Standing proud in New York harbour, this 93m statue was a gift from France in the late 1800s and for years has welcomed immigrants and visitors to the city, representing freedom and liberty. A short ferry trip over to Staten Island rewards visitors with a trip to the top of the base by her feet to soak up the panoramic views across to the city.
An internationally recognised iconic landmark, the bright white Hollywood sign on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. This is a worldwide symbol of the entertainment industry, particularly the country's movies and glamorous stars, many of which live in and around LA. For visitors looking to take the perfect photo of the sign head to Griffith Park Observatory, where there's a platform offering the perfect view.
Home to the president of the USA since 1800 and world famous from its regular use as a backdrop in movies and news footage, the White House in Washington is steeped in the country's political and cultural history. Behind its iconic white pillars are 132 rooms and six levels used by the president for living, working and entertaining dignitaries. Although tourists are no longer permitted inside the building, you can enjoy taking photos from outside and enjoying your own piece of American history.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon in the Arizona desert is an impressive one mile deep and 277 miles long. It attracts nearly five million visitors a year to enjoy breathtaking views of this deep fissure. A beacon for adventurers, there are many opportunities for hiking, kayaking or even helicopter rides around the canyon's colourful rock formations. Between April and October visitors can even hire bikes for guided cycling tours around the rim.
A favourite destination for children and young-at-heart adults from all over the world, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is a delight for all ages. Fans of Disney’s lovable characters, from the iconic ears of Mickey Mouse to more recent incarnations like Wreck-It Ralph, head in droves to wander through the arches of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Once inside, visitors can enjoy thrilling rides like the roller-coaster Thunder Mountain, the youngster-friendly It’s a Small World and the spooky Haunted Mansion, as well as spectacular shows and entertainment.
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to a huge range of wonderful animal and plant-life, and the area’s world-renowned diversity has led to this being the most visited national park in North America. Here visitors can enjoy spotting native creatures like elk, black bears or white-tailed deer, as well as picnicking under cascading waterfalls and fishing in over 700 miles of streams. Escape into the Smokies wilderness for a wild camping adventure or head through the mountains on horseback; this is an outdoor adventure destination that is hard to beat.
Soaring Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota has long been an impressive reminder of America’s tumultuous history, thanks to the depiction of four presidents carved into the granite face of the mountain. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln all have their likenesses sculpted 60 foot high into the rock to signify the founding, growth and preservation of the United States. Fourteen years in the making, this towering memorial is as iconic as it is remarkable and to this day it draws visitors from around the world.
Securing more visitors each year than the White House, Graceland was the home and final resting place of stratospheric rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. Behind the white columns at the entrance lies a memorial to the singer, preserved perfectly to the time of his death in 1977 and his grave now lies in the Meditation Garden adjacent to the house, which Presley regularly visited to enjoy some quiet reflection. Visitors can now wander through the gaudy rooms and even see Presley’s cars and private plane, although the mysterious second floor has remained sealed since his death and continues to be closed off to tourists.
Stretching across the bay of San Francisco, the lofty red cables and towers of the Golden Gate Bridge have come to make this suspension bridge one of the most famous in the world. Joining the laid-back city of San Francisco to neighbouring Oakland, construction of the bridge took four years, finally finishing in April 1937. Visitors today can walk, cycle or drive over this world famous structure, which towers above the morning mist that greets each day in the city.